What Is Hypnosis

This section aims to explain hypnosis, its uses, and also to dispel the many myths that have built up around the subject.

So, what is Hypnosis?

Basically, hypnosis is a communication method that allows a person to enter an altered state of consciousness and is a state of altered awareness promoting enhanced concentration and allowing a deepened relaxation to be experienced at same time.

During the hypnotic induction, awareness is gradually directed from the outer world to the inner world, and it becomes considerably easier to focus on significant aspects of the inner world in a relaxed, mindful manner.  Suggestions of the therapist are typically designed to support the resulting inner search processes, encouraging the patient to stay focused on what is important. Thus, comprehensive learning processes are facilitated going beyond the conscious level and involving emotional and physiological learning.  Stress reduction occurring incidentally during hypnotic trances supports emotional and physiological readjustments.

The utilisation of an altered state of consciousness for therapeutic indications has a long, solid history. However, to date hypnosis is still an ambiguous concept in the eye of many people.

Typically, there is a mixture of high hopes in terms of healing powers involved, and fear of suffering a loss of control when hypnotised. In professional therapeutic hypnosis, this ambivalence is easily dissolved by the experience that conscious control is an option at all times.  It turns out that it is simply not necessary to make use of it, since it is much more pleasant and interesting to follow the leads of the unconscious control augmenting the conscious control which previously failed to solve the problem at hand.

Today, hypnosis is used professionally in medical and dental applications to reduce stress and anxiety during medical/dental procedures for pain control, for control of physiological reactions like bleeding, gagging or nausea and many others and to support the healing and recovery setting in following those procedures.

In psychotherapy, hypnosis is either used as an adjunct supporting the effectiveness of a given psychotherapeutic method like cognitive behavior therapy or systemic family therapy, or hypnosis is used within hypnosis-psychotherapy, designed as a comprehensive method integrating psychodynamic, behavioural and systemic approaches. Typical fields of application are anxiety and panic disorders, trauma-related disorders, stress and burnout, psychosomatic disorders, depressive disorders, eating and sleeping disorders and habit control applications like smoking cessation or weight control – among many others. Scientific therapy studies looking into the effectiveness of hypnosis keep delivering encouraging results.

Engaging in a therapeutic relationship requires a lot of trust.  This is especially true, if hypnosis is involved. Therefore, it is crucial for the client to be able to ascertain the professional background of the hypnotherapist they intend to consult. ESH has obliged itself to promote professional excellence in clinical hypnosis and to make it easier to tell apart a properly trained hypnotherapist from hypnotists. ESH is only accepting member societies in the field of academic and clinical hypnosis which are able to prove they adhere to high professional standards combined with a sound ethical code.  Moreover, ESH has defined high training standards for clinical hypnosis, setting the grounds for the qualified usage of hypnosis. Therapists who have completed the training according to these standards are granted the “European Certificate of Hypnosis” (ECH) upon application.
In the hand of a professionally trained therapist, hypnosis is a safe and effective way to access trance states promoting healing and improving on experiential, behavioral, emotional and physiological levels.

“The true magic of hypnosis becomes apparent once all the myths surrounding it are stripped away.”

Matthias Mende, PhD.
Clinical Psychologist, Trainer for Hypnosis-Psychotherapy
Past President ESH
August 2013